Colony Ship review: Right into the dark

In the beginning of November, a great phenomenon occurred that captured the hearts and minds of the 0.003% of the gaming community. Iron Tower, creators of Age of Decadence, released a 1.0 version of Colony Ship: a Post-Earth Role Playing Game.

The game is set on a spaceship that flies through the void to a planet that is 400 years of flight away from Earth. Everyone born on that ship has never seen Earth and will never see the paradise planet that they are aiming to reach. Moreover, the signs of sentient civilization were discovered on that planet, and it is heavily speculated that even after landing, the colonists will have to fight with a civilization that will no doubt advance technologically to be able to put up significant resistance. In that setting, you start your journey. One of the children of the missionaries, living in a crate, never seeing sunlight, and as you set up for another mercenary gig, you suddenly come into possession of an artifact that may determine the future of that bleak world you inhabit.

This review will be separated into three parts. First, I will cover the story without spoilers. Then, I will cover some of the notable mechanics the game introduces and explain how they enhance the story and the player experience. Finally, I will conclude with my thoughts about the game. With RPGs like these, there is a lot of ground to cover because this specific genre requires insane dedication and attention to detail, both narrative and mechanical.


This game has a very interesting way of building political factions in a wise and believable manner. You understand where each of them is coming from and what their ultimate purpose in the world of Colony Ship is, and there really is no ‘good guy’ faction here. Rather, there is a faction of those who want to return to old ways, those who try to innovate no matter the cost, and those who abstain from politics for the sake of the purity of the mission.

Worldbuilding is interesting and subtle. Protectors gaslight those who live under them into believing that their enemies are an embodiment of chaos, while their enemy, The Brotherhood, has introduced social credit in order to keep the peace in their part of the city, as any truly chaotic faction would.

There is one big criticism, however. The game is bare bones, and that is especially noticeable in big hubs like the Habitat, where there is absolutely nothing to do other than faction quests. Those quests are fun, and they illustrate the world well, but the only side activity offered there is a bounty hunt, and even then, it feels a little lackluster. This doesn’t, however, mean that the Habitat is bland and boring, as there are many interesting interactions there that open up the world from a new perspective, but maybe two or three more side quests could have helped make it even better. Moreover, such lack of content could arguably play into the close quarters of the world of Colony Ship. After all, the people are stuck inside a large chunk of metal floating through space.

Also, smaller locations, like the Pit, actually have a decent amount of interesting side quests, but it is still noticeable that there is much more content in the first hours of the game than there is in the next two chapters. This is still not a criticism, as it may have very well been intentionally done to narrow down the story and focus on the main narrative of the game, while quests in Chapter 1 were intentionally all over the place to illustrate the gray morality of the setting and moral dilemmas arising from it.


Your companion cap is factored by your charisma, which is a mechanic that has not been utilized past Fallout 2. It provides an interesting limitation for a party-based RPG, where if you want to have additional companions accompanying you in battle, you have to sacrifice stats in other places to ensure greater cohesion of the group. For example, in my build, I sacrificed constitution and strength, which rendered my character useless in melee combat but funneled maximum points in charisma, which allowed me to get a feat only available to characters with 10 Charisma, which adds 20% to party experience. The dilemma here is whether you want to create a jack-of-all-trades who is semi-good at everything or commit to one or two stats and do the same with all members of the team.

Stat optimization of this game directly influences combat, which is probably the most challenging combat in CRPGs up to date. Even in the Hero mode, which is the mode that game developers do not recommend you play. You are very frequently placed in close proximity to the enemy, without immediate cover, and in later fights, you are outgunned almost always. This design forces you to treat combat as a gamble that you cannot guarantee winning and expend all resources, such as grenades and shields, to survive. In one of the boss fights, I had to restart the encounter that comprised two battles, all because I spent too many grenades in the first one, leaving none for the second, and that was still in the first act. This, however, does communicate to you the narrative position that people on this colony ship are in – resources are scarce, and even if you win one battle with what you have on hand, it may still cost you dearly in the long run.

Also, here’s a fun detail: There are no frag grenades in this game, which is on purpose because you live on a huge slab of metal flowing through space. One hole in the wrong place can kill everyone, which on one hand means nobody will ever hit you with a frag grenade, but on the other hand, it also means that you will never be able to use it to get out of the engagement. Not that you will need it, considering that there are many other pretty strong options, like the poison gas grenade, which deals damage over time, or a disruptor, which renders enemy defenses useless for a few turns, leaving them vulnerable to your gunshots.

Speaking of gunfights, the aim in this game is confusing, but it is quite genius. When you aim your weapon at an enemy, you get a circle that is covered in red, yellow, green, and blue – like a pie chart. Red stands for your chance to miss, yellow – to graze, green – to hit, and blue – to critically hit. That way, you can get a better understanding of what your hits can do, and you do not have to play with probabilities of hitting or missing blindly. You can do a build that optimizes scoring crits more often but has a higher chance of missing or a build that never misses but grazes most of the time. There is an interesting balance that you as a player have to find between building some of your characters to graze more but miss less and some of your characters to crit more but also miss more. Enemies are pretty squishy and usually well-armed, so one crit can usually determine the flow of battle, but it also really sucks when some enemy is down at 5hp, and none of your attacks can hit them. This mechanic largely adds to both tactical planning and the tension of battles because you have to maneuver to ensure your attacks can hit properly continuously.

Another thing to ensure that your attacks hit is choosing the right feats for your build. Feats are the main level-up mechanic in this game. There are also skills, like computer use, lock picking, pistols, and so on, but feats are the mechanics that determine the play style of your PC and companions. Some feats you get when you level up. Some you get as a reward for exploring the world. Most interesting feats, however, you get for falling down in battle. When you fall to enemy bullets enough time and make it, your max HP drops, but you get bonus evasion and an increase to the time it takes for you to bleed out. Your scars harden you, and even though your health drops, this game is very good at communicating how the battles make your companions more seasoned.


As a player character, you have an opportunity to ask the question, ‘Will we ever make it to the promised land?’ from every NPC you find. Yet it has been made clear to you from the very start that the people on the colony ship will never see the sun in their lifetime; only their great descendants will, and even then, there are a lot of questions about whether the ship is headed at the right course. Colony Ship puts a very interesting spin on Fallout’s idea that war never changes and shows how, even when it comes to surviving in the cold of space, humans will band into factions that will conflict. It never calls any of these people objectively good or bad, but rather, it shows how people will always find causes to rebel and quarrel.

Colony Ship’s mechanics do an amazing job of building a large world within a small compartment. You feel as if you explore the world with a multitude of people and factions, and yet you also see how small it is. This game is one of the few cases where the world is small on purpose, and it utilizes its size effectively to put a player in a position where they have to calculate their every move or bullet carefully. You feel small and vulnerable when you play it, yet within this smallness lies a grandeur of a certain sort. When you win a boss battle in this game or just an engagement that was supposed to kill you, and you stand up with wounds from it, you feel the impact of decisions you made, which makes you feel all the more immersed in it and attaches you to the world and people living within it.

Score: 80/100

Strong story with extremely deeply written factions and setting.
-Non-linear storytelling with lots of options.
-Creative use of systems and mechanics to communicate the state of the world.
-Innovative aim UI, which I hope more isometric tactics games will utilize in the future.

Too little side content. Some acts feel completely bare bones.
-No voiceovers, which make it slightly harder to immerse yourself in the game.
-Pacing is too fast, which breaks the immersion in some places.

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